I'm a shitty play-goer. There, I said it. Considering I've dedicated my life to the art and craft of the almighty theatre, it is a little embarrassing that I go and actually SEE theatre as little as I do (comparatively speaking). I use my financial situation as an excuse sometimes (which is not untrue - it is really hard for me to pay for anything costing upwards of $10), but of course, I have a ton of connections and can usually see things at a heavily discounted rate if not for free.
To be honest, I'm not that interested in seeing most stuff as I usually come away disappointed and find whatever I saw lacking. I much more of a snob about what I see than I am about what I participate in, as I've definitely participated in my share of turkeys.
Don't get me wrong: I've seen some AMAZING, life-changing theatre too...and if it were ALL like that, I wouldn't bother writing this; I'd probably be at the theatre. In fact, I'd probably be in rehearsal right now and that would probably be my day job because there would be lines around the corner for every play, and there would be many more actors getting paid WELL. But that is sadly not the case. I've really only seen a handful of plays that have changed my life:
1.) My Children! My Africa! written & directed by Athol Fugard at the La Jolla Playhouse, 1990
2.) The Sea Gull by Anton Chekhov, directed by Mike Nichols in Central Park at the Public Theatre, 2001
3.) Berlin to Broadway - A Kurt Weill Revue at The Bathhouse Theatre in Seattle, 1995
4.) The Tempest by Shakespeare, directed by Robin Lynn Smith at Freehold in Seattle, 2003
5.) Hiroshima Maiden by Dan Hurlin at University of Maryland, 2005
Yep - these are they. Not that everything else I've seen has been horrible...I've seen plenty of "good" stuff, but I can also see "good" on TV or at the movie theatre for less money. "Good" doesn't rock my world or make me think that much. I usually come away with "Wow, that was really a great performance by X actor, but the story was a little thin" or "That staging was really innovative and intriguing, even though I couldn't see some of it because the lighting was awful" or "Amazing story - too bad the director didn't know what he was doing"... etc. Often there is a really great seed of an idea that the company tries to do something with that just falls flat in one way or another.
These things are often really difficult to see from the inside of a production - you are working hard and you feel good about your performance...it is making you feel something, and as an actor, director or designer, it is making you feel something and transforming you...but it ends up not translating entirely to the audience for one reason or another.
With all that in mind, it is especially interesting to also work on the publicity side of things, in terms of encouraging people to come see something. I feel a little dishonest sometimes, like I'm not practicing what I preach. I come from different angles with each show I publicize, since not everything appeals to everyone and of course you want everyone to come, but it's especially important to hit your target audience for that particular show.
For example, working on Oedipus El Rey right now for eSe Teatro, there is the obvious population of affluent, theartre-going Latinos here in Seattle, and also ACT theatre's regular audiences. Those are kind of a given - but keeping the show itself in mind, what else? People who love Greek adaptations and classical theatre. High school and college groups? Do we tour it to the prisons as a public service? Social and other care workers that might benefit from the show's thematic material? At-risk youth?
Also, when trying to get people to come see something, you can't just say "It's great, come see it!" because that always begs the question "WHY? What makes it great?" So I try to take the path of inclusiveness, rather than what I call the "green beans" approach (Eat your green beans; they're good for you - come see art, it's good for you). I try to give them the answer to the "why" before they ask it, by posting blog entries solicited from actors/director/designers, etc about the rehearsal/creation process. By trying to come up with interesting partnerships with local businesses that might yield an audience member a special benefit when coming to the show (free cookie? Flower on Mother's day for all moms...heh heh...this would be interesting for Oedipus...). By trying to create an experience for the audience member that extends far past the attendance at a production through asking questions of them on internet sites, getting them to engage in the entire process through fundraising efforts, etc.
This is all very well and good, and kind of fun and creative for me, but does it actually resonate with audiences? Has it ever actually resonated with ME as an audience member? Good food for thought as I embark on this journey yet again. If anyone actually reads this, I would definitely appreciate your feedback on the situation as a whole!
Day to day thoughts, rants and mental detritus.